Something I’ve been speaking a lot about recently with my clients and close friends is the concept of standards versus expectations. I’ve been speaking about this SO much, that I thought it’s high time that I record an episode so I’ve got it somewhere I can just refer people to.
So, the difference between expectations and standards.
You’re probably reading this, thinking, “Is there a difference? Expectations and standards, they’re probably the same thing.”
No, they’re not. Let me break it down for you.
This is when we expect other people, or something outside of us, to determine how we feel, and often, it’s not a conscious thing where we think, ‘If so and so does this, and this happens, then I’ll feel elated or down.’ It just so happens that you we this often unconscious internal expectation.
So when that thing happens — when someone says something or doesn’t do something — you end up feeling a certain way, because you had an expectation that they’ll be a certain way, they’d do or not do certain things, or that certain things will or won’t happen.
You’ve already decided internally that you have this expectation.
The thing with expectations is, they strip you of your power to choose how to feel.
If you consciously (or unconsciously) decide, ‘If so and so does or doesn’t show up like this, I’m gonna feel like this,’ then your feelings, responses, and reactions are at the hands of someone showing up or not showing up in a certain way.
I’m sure you’ve realised it’s really disempowering to have an expectation of something or someone dictating how you feel and what action you’ll take. It’s really disempowering, and that’s where standards come in.
These are an internal process, or something that we have internally. It’s not based on what someone does, or if a particular outcome comes to pass or not. We say, “This is my standard. Regardless of how something unfolds, this is the standard that I hold for myself.”
The example I’ve been giving a lot to my friends and some of my clients is my kitchen.
I like my kitchen to be a certain way — not perfect because I’ve come to a realisation that there are other human beings in the house. I like my kitchen to be decently clean and relatively tidy.
So, with this in mind, let’s say I’ve washed all the dishes in the sink and have gone about my business for the evening. Then, a member of my household comes into the kitchen, makes a meal, and then just dumps everything into the sink. I come back to find the kitchen in that state.
Expectations would be that I’d get upset, because my expectation is, “You saw an empty sink, mate. Why didn’t you just clean up after yourself and keep the sink empty like you found it?”
What does LaYinka end up feeling in that moment? She feels frustrated, annoyed, and angry, and that can lead to passive aggression or having an outburst at someone.
Expectations. The result that someone has brought about dictated how LaYinka feels.
Standards, on the other hand, is LaYinka walking into the kitchen, seeing the stuff in the sink, and going up to the person and saying, “Hey, you saw the kitchen was clean when you came in. Could you go and sort it out so it’s returned back to how it was?”
Standards. Not getting upset, no negative emotions. Just stating a fact neutrally.
It’s LaYinka saying, “Look, that’s a standard I have. I clean up after myself, so go make the kitchen the way you found it.” It’s not getting upset.
A standard is: ‘I treat myself a certain way and I’ll allow myself to be treated in a certain way, and to be spoken to in a certain way. When someone doesn’t live up to my standard, I don’t get upset about it. I just plainly tell them what my standard is. Whether they live up to that standard or not is irrelevant. It’s all about me maintaining that standard for myself.’ This is where empowerment comes from: Owning it.
Waiting for someone to live up to your standards is still an expectation that’ll leave you disappointed because you have zero control over that person, but you have control over how you feel and think, and what actions you take, and that’s a choice from a place of standard that you’ve set for yourself.
So, if someone isn’t showing up right, that’s their business. I’m gonna do what I need to do, show up how I need to show up, and you can keep your mess. I ain’t part of that.
This is so empowering, and I’m seeing the importance of us having standards for ourselves, because it’s when we don’t have standards that we’re trampled upon, treated badly, and find ourselves frustrated.
So, as you’re reading this, I want you to really pinpoint and identify where you have expectations, and allow yourself to set yourself standards and live by them. Embrace your standards, regardless of what other people around you do or do not do.